The Price of Due Process: Having faith in the system
Last week, we were inundated with news stories and commentaries about the execution of a convicted cop killer. In my post last week, I allowed you to read the course of the appeals and the review of the guilty verdict against him. Many were surprised to learn that many courts and the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board took great care to review the evidence and procedure involved in his trial as well as his claims of “actual innocence.” Many people were frustrated with a process that delayed the judgment of a court for over 20 years including a last minute review by the United States Supreme Court. While I understand the frustration and certainly feel for the families of the victims in these cases, the extreme lengths taken to ensure due process is a bedrock of our constitution and criminal justice system.
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The words applicable to criminal cases mean something in our country. “No person shall be … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” For all of the delay, cost and agony for the families of the victims, commitment to these principles separates us from the many countries in which an accused has no right to confront the witnesses and evidence against him, protesters are not permitted to freely voice their opposition to an execution and the press is not free to communicate the facts and publish the opinions of others.
I hope that those who worked so hard to ensure due process for the convicted murderer will continue to do so in an unbiased manner to ensure equal protection of the law for everyone. LEOs who are accused of misconduct are too often “tried and convicted” in formal and informal media venues before the investigations into their conduct are complete. Our Constitution applies equally to all citizens, and those who put their lives on the line to protect the rights of others deserve every protection under the law.
If you are not a LEO, welcome to Blueline Lawyer. Over the past few weeks, I was honored to welcome many new readers. You must understand the perspective of a LEO to fully appreciate the concern over the delay in bringing Mark Allen MacPhail’s killer to justice. For every LEO murdered in the line of duty, there is a story of a denial of due process and a violation of constitutional rights. Each LEO died in the performance of the duties outlined in an oath voluntarily taken. Let us not forget they lost their constitutional rights to live free, raise families and enjoy a full life.
As for me, I will support and defend our Constitution. For all of the criticisms, we still have the best system of justice in the world. Perhaps the price of due process is worth the knowledge that our rights are secure and the words in the United States Constitution are more than just a notion. Our system of justice is truly tested by the tough cases. The cases that make us stay true to the rule of law make our system stronger. This recent case shows that the principles of due process are alive, well and powerful in our country. May they continue to guide us long into the future.